The thinking goes as follows: If Cruz loses Iowa, he peters out in New Hampshire and doesn’t pose a risk of finishing in a respectable second place. That allows the establishment winner out of the Granite State to build momentum as the anti-Trump alternative. A decent number of Cruz’s supporters, when asked to choose a second candidate, gravitate to Rubio. Polls show many more of Trump supporters, by contrast, would support Cruz. And even with Trump’s improving favorability numbers within the GOP, there are more Republican voters who wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstances than say the same about the senator from Texas.
These strategists are looking at Trump’s increasingly bellicose attacks against Cruz with glee. In their view, only Trump can successfully put a dent in Cruz’s sky-high favorability among Republicans, which is a precondition to blocking him from the nomination.
But there’s one big problem with the theory being embraced by many party pooh-bahs. It risks handing the election to Trump on a silver platter—helping knock out his strongest rival while watching helplessly as more-moderate alternatives blow each other up in the process. The wishful thinking behind such a strategy is that Cruz is utterly unelectable, while Trump is unpredictable enough to win a general election. In reality, Cruz looks like an electable standard-bearer, while Trump could blow the party to smithereens.